Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Early memories of South East Asian football

I first hit this region in 1987 as a callow, skinny youth off to Australia. At that time I envisaged 12 months away from home before returning to follow the Arsenal over land and sea, and Leicester, but that never happened did it?

I spent a week in Yogyakarta staying at a hotel by the main railway station. I used to eat at a warung up there and talk to some of the local lads. We would talk football and I remember them telling me that the fans from Surabaya were the most notorious.

12 months later I was in Singapore and visited a small shop called La Vanita which is still there, in the same location. I picked up a couple of Singapore football magazines and recall reading aout Fandi Ahmad and a team called Pioneer Arsenal. Sad to say the mags have long gone.

Four years later I was in nearby Solo, funnily enough I have pictures of me at the station wearing a St George shirt (cheers Andy Harper) and in my wanderinsg round the town stumbled across the Sriwedari Stadium. Little knowing of course that my mate Isman Jasulmai, now Persis Solo coach, played their for the now defunct Arseto.

I moved across Java and eventually caught a flight to Singapore. There were some Cup semis being held at the time, July 1991, played at a pre refurbished Jalan Besar Stadium. Geylang were one of the other teams, the other I don't know. I did once ask Fandi Ahmad if he knew but he couldn't remember...he may not even have been there at the time.
It wasn't long before I moved to Thailand. There was a league of sorts but I found it difficult to get excited about teams like SET, KTB, TFB or Army. TFB or Thai Farmers Bank was where I kept my few satang and at that time they were quite a power in Asian football. The Thais had put up an impressive showing at the Asian Games in Hiroshima and hopes were high that they would soon be qualifying fr the World Cup.

Thai Farmers Bank had a retail outlet in Siam Square and I would occassionally wander in their to see what they had. A few pennants and t shirts was about it.

I kept meaning to catch a domestic league game but could never really be bothered until I finally decided to take in an international. Thailand played South Korea in 1997 in a qualifying match, the Koreans won and that was my first game in the country. Funnily enough Chonburi Dale was at the same game and it was his first too.

Back then most of us never bothered with trivia like work permits so every month we would have to go one visa runs to Malaysia. One trip I picked up an interesting book about the Malaysia Cup, again now sadly lost, and I always promised myself I would time a visa run around a game there. Every trip I would try and find fixtures but it never happened.

Sadly did walk to the stadiums in both Kota Bahru and Penang but never saw any games until last year.

And that was it. Local football was never really on the radar for the rest of my stay here. I met a couple of Persebaya fans when I lived there but could never find the time to see a game. It wasn't until 2005, watching a game in a bar between Arema and Persija that I decided I was missing out on something.

Hence Jakarta Casual was born...

I remember walking all the way from Ekkamai to the National Stadium - stopping off for something to eat and a couple of cold drinks along the way. There was no skytain then and the roads were packed so it seemed the easiest thing to do.
I remember trying to find a Thai National Team jersey, but not a single shop had it - not even the sports shops behind Supachalasai stadium. I ended up buying a generic FBT shirt and a Thai Flag patch and got a tailor to put the two together. A few days later I went to see a Thailand National Team match and a bunch of people came up to me to ask where I had bought the Thai National team jersey :)
i remember a few koreans waving stoopid placcy flags and one drunken thai waving a much larger flag

were you at the same game biplav
I dont remember attending any match where Korea played. I attended a match against Kazakhstan (can't recall the tournament), the Asian Games semi-finals against Kuwait, bunch of the 2000 Olympic Qualifiers including the match against Japan where there were 5x as many Japanese fans (embarrassing). If you recall seeing an Indian looking guy in the stands, it must have been me.
I managed to buy a shirt at that first match. There was a small stall by the big main gates. They didn't have anything bigger than XL, which wasn't anywhere near big enough, but I bought it nevertheless.

It's the Grand Sport one with the map of Thailand, and surrounding countries, on it. I've still got it.
i ve just come across a couple of pix from when thailand played arsenal along with the match ticket...just waiting for the missus to scan for me...
We have Ryan Giggs to thank for that match ;) Arsenal wouldn't have come if they'd have beaten M*n U*d in the semi final replay. I was there in BKK that day as well. Do you remember the mother of all storms at the final whistle? It was English FA Cup final day and my mate, who is a Newcastle fan, was desperately trying to find a taxi to get him into town so he could watch the match. How I laughed!
the rain is about all i remember. woke up next day thinking we d lost 2-1
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